How to Set Up Unit Conversion Problems for Chemistry

Chemistry problems require many unit conversions.
••• Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

In chemistry, the information being processed is seldom expressed in the units needed in the final result. In order to show the outcome in the proper units of measure, set up a unit conversion problem. This type of problem allows you to translate one size measure to another. For example, you may need to change inches to feet or convert inches into centimeters.

    Find the conversion factor that will allow you to get from the units that you have to the units that you need. For example, to get from inches (in) to centimeters (cm), you will need to know that the conversion factor is 2.54 cm/1 in (read 2.54 centimeters per inch). If you have 5 inches to convert, the problem is set up like this: 5 in/1 x 2.54 cm/1 in. When you multiply, you will cancel the 1 inch into the 5 inches so that the "inches" go away. This leaves 5 x 2.54 cm = 12.7 cm.

    Use the same type of unit conversion technique when converting one size measurement into a different type of unit within the same system. To convert milliliters (mL) into liters (L), use the conversion factor 1 L/1,000 mL. 5,000 mL would convert to liters this way: 5,000 mL x 1 L / 1,000 mL. The milliliters and the thousands cancel each other out, leaving 5 x 1 L= 5 L.

    Use multiple unit conversion factors when more than one step is required to get from the units that you have to the units that you need. To convert a yard into centimeters, you have to convert yards to inches and inches to centimeters. The problem would set up like this: 1 yd x 36 in/yd x 2.54 cm/in. The yards and inches both cancel out. This leaves: 36 x 2.54 cm = 91.44 cm. The key is to always place the measure that you are getting rid of in a position so it can be canceled during the calculation and leave only the desired units in the answer.

Related Articles

How to Convert Inches to Mm
How to Convert Inches to the Metric System
How to Calculate Metric Conversions
How to Convert Cups to Pounds
How to Convert Yards to Feet
How to Convert Radians to Degrees
How to Convert Centimeters to Meters
How to Convert Tenths to Hundredths
How to Convert Bushels to Hundredweight
How to Calculate Moles
How to Estimate With Fractions
How to Convert Grams to Molecules
How to Find Mass in Weight
How to Convert FT LB to IN LB
How to Convert Negative Celsius to Fahrenheit
How to Calculate Gallons and Tank Volume
How to Calculate a Square Yard
Gallons to Kilograms Conversion

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!